Community Life at the Ecole

Samstag, 14. September 2013

by Daniel Davis Wood

Schulgemeinde co-leader Annabelle explains
yesterday's community discussion points.

With so many people living closely together on and around the Ecole campus, staff and students place great importance on maintaining the spirit of the community as a whole. On Friday afternoons, everyone in the community works together to help things run as smoothly as possible -- and yesterday afternoon gave us a chance to see community work in action for the first time this academic year.

Unlike in previous years, Friday afternoons now begin with all Ecole students attending one of many Community Service Groups. Some of these groups encourage students to serve the community in simple and practical ways, such as helping out with recycling duties, tending to the school’s two resident donkeys, organizing dancing and games on Saturday evenings, choosing films to be shown on Sunday afternoons, and setting up the chairs and the stage in the Grosser Saal so that we can host large community events.

Other groups serve the Ecole community -- and communities related to the Ecole -- in different, less direct ways. The Indischeteestube Group hosts events that raise money to sponsor a child in India. The Fasting Day Group encourages Ecolianers to take part in a day-long fast so that some of the money usually spent on school meals can be used to support members of poor communities in Africa and Asia. The Culture Evening Group, whose responsibility is to “organize events that broaden the cultural spectrum of the Ecole,” arranges for classic films to be shown every Thursday night, and there are still more Community Service Groups fulfilling different sets of responsibilities, as their leaders and members can explain...

Media Group and Yearbook Group
Jodie Lam is a member of both the Media Group and the Yearbook Group. “The Media Group helps students at the Ecole to receive the daily news and know what is happening in the world,” she writes. “The group’s responsibilities include taking the daily newspapers to the library where students can access them, to show the nightly news on television in the Media Room, and to put selected news articles regarding important current affairs on public display in one of the Ecole’s common spaces.” The Ecole currently holds subscriptions to the International Herald Tribune, the Basler Zeitung, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and the nightly news is shown in English and German on alternating days. As for the Yearbook Group, Jodie writes that it consists of “five members, including two returning members,” and its responsibilities include taking photographs and collecting stories for the Ecole Yearbook that is created and published annually by Ecole students.

Peace and Justice Group
Hallie Scarbrough is a new student at the Ecole and has just joined the Peace and Justice Group. “Peace and Justice is a group that raises awareness about social and political causes outside the Ecole,” she writes, “and then motivates the student body to help those causes in any way possible.” These causes usually reflect those identified and promoted by Amnesty International. “Peace and Justice is a very service-oriented group,” Hallie writes. It hosts regular fundraising events for charity initiatives, which means that “members have to be devoted, going to as many events as possible and bringing ideas and key points to the table to find ways to encourage the Ecole community to help our chosen causes.”

Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)
Kebir Gadio is one of the leaders of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). “GSA is focused on LGBTQ issues and awareness at the Ecole,” he writes. “GSA regularly informs the school community of developing gay rights news and related topics. GSA helps to create a safe space where anyone can come and talk about anything in confidence and just be themselves. The group’s goals are to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and to foster a culture of openness and acceptance of all at the Ecole.”

Polygon members introduce themselves to the school.

Following attendance at Community Service Group meetings, students and staff convene in the Grosser Saal for the weekly School Assembly or Schulgemeinde. The Schulgemeinde is a student-led event that offers all Ecolianers the chance to comment on important community developments or ideas for improvement, to raise awareness of issues that affect the community, and to constructively resolve the difficulties that can arise in community life.

Returning students Annabelle and Max are the Schulgemeinde leaders for this academic year. Yesterday, after introducing themselves and giving a reminder of the Schulgemeinde procedures and protocols, they oversaw Schulgemeinde discussions of some pressing topics. The members of Polygon rose from their seats and introduced themselves to the school, putting a dozen friendly faces to the student representative group that discusses student issues with the school leadership.

Michel runs through the list of hikes scheduled to take place at the end of September.

After the Polygon introductions, announcements were made regarding the provision of laptops to students, the transformation of the library into a silent study hall each night after dinner, and the proper ways to dispose of recyclable materials. Then, to round off the first Schulgemeinde, each of the Ecole teachers who plan to lead groups on the Four-Day Hike later this month stood up to describe their destination and difficulty of their planned route. With hike groups planning to head to central Switzerland, Ticino, Valais, and across the border into Italy, the Four-Day Hike is a major event in the fall term calendar and, following the announcements at yesterday’s Schulgemeinde, all students filled out a hike ballot sheet to allow them to join the hike of their choice.